This is going to sound awfully whiny, and there might be some SID/PID teachers who have more of a reason to complain than I do. But I don’t think any are in my county.
I feel swamped. I think I have always felt swamped in some fashion or form but this year it hit particularly hard with 3 new students and 2 new paras. Nine SID/PID students is simply too many for this level of disability. I’m trying to keep track of 9 diets, 9 medical conditions, 9 bathroom schedules (gotta keep track of when everyone has a BM!) 9 parents, 9 IEPS, 9 academic programs across all subjects and all 4 grade levels. While all my paras have talents in their own way, they are not charged with keeping track of everyone all at the same time. Sure, that’s why I get paid the big bucks, but where is the limit?
I am totally crashing up against it. I forget stuff like jackets, snacks, medications, and a variety of other little niggling things. I used to like talking to parents and related service providers, but I find I have less time and patience for the various nitpicking requests. “Can you brush his teeth?” “Can you make sure her shirt is tucked in?” “Can we make sure he uses his communication device at lunch?” “Can you make sure he stays on the GFCF diet in the school cafeteria?” “Can you make sure he uses his picture schedule?”
If I had a sane class size, these would be just part of the job and everyone would get the special treatment we’re supposed to give him or her. I felt full at 7 students but we were able to do some cool things. This year, it feels more like just survival, and not sustainable. I do have to give credit in that several other teachers and paras have chipped in and helped when they could. My parents have generally been supportive. My paras are generally competent. The thing is, is that I feel like we are past the point where adding more paras will do us any good. Adding another adult helper is simply one more person that I have to keep track of and manage all day long.
Some may hate me saying this, but we are a school/nursing home hybrid. We do what they do in a nursing home plus I have to do what 4-5 other teachers do, albeit on a different and much abbreviated level. The shift to the regular academic curriculum on top of the daily living skills curriculum adds a level of incredulity to a mission that was already seen as bordering on futility.
Most of the real stakeholders know all of this already. I’ve voiced a lot of concerns to those in positions to help and ease our plight, but they are not listening or at least they are not responding. Either they are unwilling or unable to do anything. And since some students were allowed to jump across the zone into my class where another parent was not allowed to go to a different zone to in order to escape my overcrowding. So indicators are pretty much pointing to some sort of willful hostility or ignorance at the county system level.
The core problem is that each of my students have so many pressing needs, some which need to be met in order to maintain their health and their lives! I feel personally responsible for each and every one of them, and don’t have it in me to say “Too bad” and not try my best. I’ve known many teachers who were willing to simply let things slide or simply do the bare minimum or less. This particular position sometimes attracts those characters. But I can’t do that, as I am blessed and cursed with a moral conscience that does not allow it. So every time I fail to meet a given need, or forget something or don’t get to something, it is seen as a demoralizing failure on my part. I don’t think my standards are too high, but with this many kids, the toll has been substantial. In the grand scheme of things, forgetting to send a jacket home or keep up with who had a BM when is comparatively minor, but this sort of thing has been happening more and more this year. I feel like I’m losing my mind. But I’m trying to noodle it out and basically chalk it up to the fact that I am trying to do the best that I can under the present circumstances. I don’t think I’m a perfectionist, but I do have high standards for myself. I expect mistakes and expect to learn from them. Is feeling down about neglecting some of my students perfectionism? I think that is what it is; I feel like all of my students suffer from neglect at least at some point during the day. I can not sit all of them around a table and have them physically within arms reach. When they are being positioned and changed, those not needing positioning are hanging loose. When teaching those who are less disabled, I can barely include those who are more involved because they all need intense instruction!
Horace’s Compromise (or at least the dilemma described therein) has officially arrived in my classroom.